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How to pull yourself out of a slump

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in Workplace Communication

Top performers in every field, just like top athletes, go through slumps.

It happened to Dan Di Cio, a Pittsburgh account executive who watched others win sales awards and thought: “Why can’t I be that guy?”

So he tried harder, much harder, only to fall further behind. Eventually he remembered how baseball pitcher John Smoltz got out of a slump: Stop overworking. Relax.

It’s a similar story for Tim Stowell, a commercial real estate broker who in moments of self-doubt conjures up golf legend Jack Nicklaus, who in tense moments used to step back and regain a positive state of mind.

For ordinary mortals, a slump may be less visible than a superstar’s, but it’s built on the same combination of losing confidence, obsessing on errors, fretting over every new move and struggling with hellish projects they once liked.

A medical journal reports that the brains of athletes forced to watch videos of themselves in the act of losing resemble those of people with depression, which may mess them up even more.

Here are some techniques that can help slumpers snap out of it:

1. After a blooper, refocus immediately on past feats of daring and skill. Quit beating yourself up.

2. Imagine yourself winning the next sale, contract or promotion, getting there any way you can: long drives or chip shots.

3. Record and replay your past triumphs.

4. List your talents and consult the list when you’re stressing. Some athletes keep a laminated card of strengths in their back pockets.

5. When you feel like you’re freezing up, trick your mind into moving again through rote tasks.

6. Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing.

7. Hang out with positive people. Lose the whiners.

8. Develop rituals to help you clear your head and refocus—just the way a batter will shake off a strike by stepping out of the batter’s box and knocking the dirt off his cleats with the bat.

9. Remember what you like about your job or why you do what you do.

— Adapted from “Slumping at Work? What Would Jack Do,” Sue Shellenbarger, The Wall Street Journal.

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